Alpine Racer Shows Promise But Lacks Depth

Namco’s Alpine Racer series has historically been a fixture in arcades (when they were popular in the States…) for over a decade. It is a downhill skiing series that relied on beautiful graphics and an interesting swiveling apparatus (picture here) that aimed at simulating a skiing experience. I’ve always enjoyed the arcade series as I’d regularly toss a buck at the game, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see Alpine Racer come to the iPhone.
Like its arcade brethren, Alpine Racer has two primary modes of play (Story Mode and Time Attack). Story Mode consist of taking a character through three races to earn points to level up attributes of your character. This mode can typically be blown through in roughly 10 minutes. As you beat the game, you unlock characters and courses. Time Attack allows you to pick any of the four courses in Alpine Racer and compete to set time records. Scope of Alpine Racer seems very basic and somewhat underwhelming.
There are two options to pick from to control your skier. One, an onscreen control pad which gives the most precise control. Two, using the accelerometer is fairly accurate, but not better than the first option. An “action” button also allows you to do tricks in the air. On that point, tricks don’t provide any performance boosts; tricks are there purely for cosmetic reasons only.
One of the biggest pros of the Alpine Racer series from the arcades were the beautiful graphics. While Alpine Racer for iPhone isn’t anywhere close to the standard set in the arcades, the effort here is good. Everything in Alpine Racer is in 3D, and the characters and courses look good. On the flip side, the sense of speed isn’t very satisfying even with a fully maxed-out character. The low, but consistent, frame rate doesn’t help in this regard either.
Overall, Alpine Racer is a solid game. My main quibble is that the depth (3 selectable characters, 4 tracks, no multiplayer, etc.) here doesn’t add up to the $6 price tag. If you’re a hardcore fan of the franchise, feel free to give Alpine Racer a shot. Otherwise, there are more attractive and meatier options available on the App Store.